App State baseball looks to carry on momentum after COVID interrupted strong start

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Courtesy App State Athletics

After going 11-6 to start the 2020 season, the pandemic ended App State baseball’s season early. Now, the team’s sights are set on preparing for the 2021 season.

Jayson James

The App State baseball team sat at 11-6 and had won six straight games before COVID-19 cut spring sports short. Coming into a new season, head coach Kermit Smith and his team are looking to continue the momentum they had before things came to a halt.

The Mountaineers return a solid starting pitching rotation, as well as a solid bullpen led by redshirt senior Andrew Papp. 

“The biggest thing for me is that I have always been competitive. In the offseason, I have worked on making my arm as strong and as healthy as possible. I’m excited for a new year and excited for the opportunity to be a leader on this pitching staff and this team,” Papp said. 

Last year, Papp posted a 2.53 earned run average out of the bullpen over 10.2 innings pitched and racked up 9 strikeouts. 

Along with strong leadership in the bullpen, the Mountaineers also return fifth-year senior first baseman Robbie Young. Young has a career .988 fielding percentage, as well as a .298 slugging percentage, and a .328 on-base percentage. Last year, Young started at first base in all 17 games for App State. 

“I have always been good defensively. My goal this year is to be able to get the ball off the ground a lot more and give my team the best effort I can both offensively and defensively,” Young said.  “I want to make sure the players know they are all here for a reason, and they are all good baseball players, and to buy into the system coach Smith has set for us.” 

Smith noted that while the 11-6 overall record was something to be proud of, the team still didn’t play as well as they could’ve, losing three close games in walk-off fashion. 

“There were three pitches that caused us to have three fewer wins and three more losses than what we could have had,” Smith said. “We know not to be satisfied, and to go out this season and prepare and continue that momentum.” 

Smith said he’s happy to have key seniors returning this year and leadership in both Young and Papp to help lead younger players. 

“Having two guys like Robbie and Papp return this year means everything. It means I get to spend another year with two great ball players who can help deliver messages in the locker room and help build a consistent program with a consistent identity,” Smith said. “I felt good about my team last year and still do. We have added some key pieces. I think we as a team are in a really good spot.” 

Smith makes sure his players know how important it is to keep that momentum going into the start of this season. 

“It is important to be strong early on in the year and have that play over to conference play, especially if you want a chance of making it to Omaha,” Smith said. Omaha, Nebraska is where the College Baseball World Series is held every year. “Winning those conference games are very important, just like winning every other game.”

As of now, there is no finalized schedule for the baseball team, but they continue to prepare for when the time comes.